Shorebird of the Week – July 16, 2015

When TJ Olesczuk came to the Shorebirds in early June after a brief stay with Frederick, he started off like a house on fire. TJ went 9-for-16 in a series at Kannapolis, hitting his first professional home run and knocking in nine runs. In short, for that series he was a one-man wrecking crew for Intimidator pitching. But I wanted to see how he would do after a few weeks, and as players often do they cool down after a torrid start. Earlier this month, Oleschuk was benched for a few days after his average tailed below .250 for the first time as a Shorebird.

That pause seemed to refresh TJ’s bat because over the last five games it has slowly heated up again. Olesczuk went 3-for-11 in three games at Hagerstown but has stepped it up with six hits in two games against Lexington. The second-worst pitching staff in the league has been battered by the Shorebirds over the last two days and TJ has used them to spring his average up 33 points for a .283/3/31/.836 OPS slash line.

I’m not sure how they do it, but 40th round selections seem to thrive with the Shorebirds. Olesczuk joins Garrett Cortright as last-round picks who are succeeding at this level. Taken out of Winthrop University, the 23-year-old New York product got into 7 games at Frederick, going 3-for-19 before being sent down to perhaps a more appropriate level considering he toiled in the Gulf Coast League last summer. There he hit .265/0/12/.659 OPS in 34 games.

Only one of the four outfielders who began the season with Delmarva is still here – Elier Leyva, last week’s SotW. Jay Gonzalez and Conor Bierfeldt have been promoted while Jamill Moquete has missed most of the season with an injury. Thus, the chance is there for TJ to hold down left field for the rest of the year and get another 50 games or so under his belt – all told, he has only played in 72 games over two seasons. It’s an opportunity to show the Orioles he’s not just an organization guy picked to fill out a low minor league roster.

If he can keep his average around the .280 level he should get another bite of the apple at Frederick – if not this year, then certainly in 2016. Like Bierfeldt before his promotion, Olesczuk has a knack for driving in runs – those 31 are in as many games, so imagine how far up a prospect list a player could go if he kept that up for a full season.

Even getting to 50 RBI in 80 or so games played would open some eyes, so let’s hope TJ can keep going.